How will social distancing work in a gym? A step-by-step guide

By Parisa Hashempour

Published 21 October 2020

You’re preparing your gym for the post-pandemic ‘new normal’ and you’ve taken all of the right precautions. You’ve figured out how to limit members’ visits, incorporate at-home training and have a fool-proof way of keeping a track of everyone coming in and out of the door (if you don’t, check this out).

But the biggest challenge (and probably the most important), is figuring out how your staff and members can stick to social distancing guidelines even now that we are facing a second wave of COVID-19. How can gyms practice social distancing, when the gym is such a communal space?

This blog post will try and help you equip yourself for the new guidelines and give you the tools you need to provide social distancing training for employees and implement practical steps for the protection of both your staff and members.

How long will social distancing last?

The honest answer is that right now, we don’t really know. Not enough about the virus is really understood yet but some Harvard scientists are predicting that it could last all the way until 2022.

If this is the case, we need to make sure that our facilities are well equipped and are able to last long-term, while operating at a socially distanced capacity.

How can gyms practice social distancing?

The steps below will equip you with the step-by-step advice you need to make your reopening as safe and socially distanced as possible.

  • Step #1: Social distancing training for employees

Ensure that you sync with all team members on your new protocols for maintaining a safe, social distance within your facility. As the second-wave approaches and regional lockdowns are at risk of taking place, this is a practice you should stay on top of. You could set up a Zoom call ahead of opening day – or even gather your team a day early (at a safe social distance of course) and run through all of your new rules.

This is likely to be a stressful and anxiety-inducing time for many people, your employees included, particularly as we prepare for the second wave. So make sure that you answer any questions that your employees may have and encourage them to voice any concerns. This way you can find ways to alleviate them quickly. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to have a strong, cohesive team.

  • Step #2: Create a policy of no visitors

Your employees may be used to allowing their family and friends to turn up to the facility, to talk, hang out or pick them up from work.

Continue to instruct your employees that all visitors should remain outside of the facility, this will decrease your chances of surpassing your capacity limits.

  • Step #3: Make more space

The best way to keep people at the correct social distance is to give them the room to work out on their own, without bumping into other people or equipment. This may mean reducing the number of machines, or figuring out how you can spread them out more.

It will mean creating a bigger space between cardio machines such as ellipticals and treadmills. It will also mean partitioning specific spaces for floor workouts. You can mark out each workout space with tape or paint, so that everyone knows to stay within their specific areas.

At the start of every fitness class, the instructor should announce social distancing reminders. You could also create staff t-shirts with a social distancing reminder printed on the back. This may help you staff feel more confident and better protected.

Post reminders about your social distancing rules in changing rooms so that members are reminded to adhere to them in there. It’s also wise to post these rules in staff areas so that your employees also have that constant reminder.

  • Step #4: Implement an excellent cleaning strategy

As we’re sure you know, right now, hygiene is everything. It’s important to have cleaners constantly on-site (or staff constantly with cleaning equipment on hand), ensuring that hard surfaces are wiped clean.

Make sure that gym members use antibacterial when they enter the site and they should be instructed to wipe down equipment both before and after they use it.

Continue to encourage members to bring their own mat and towels. This is a great way to limit the spread of the virus by reducing the amount of objects that are being reused within the gym, health club or fitness studio.

  • Step #5: Social distancing at check-in

Minimise the contact with members when they enter the facility by making sure you have a hands-free check-in system in place. You could do this with a club card, RFID scanner or QR code. Ideally, guests will touch as little as possible, so having no turnstiles may actually make things easier. If you do have turnstiles, ensure that they are cleaned hourly.

Using a software like Virtuagym is essential for making sure that social distancing rules are being maintained. You can keep track of exactly who is inside your gym and ensure that you never go over your limits.

Business analytics features can be used to get insights in who is in your gym and when. Plus you can utilize a credit system, which will help you limit the number of entries per member.

For example, as the second-wave approaches you may decide that each member is allowed to visit the gym only three times a week – constantly reevaluating and changing this number in line with recommendations will ensure that you never have too many people trying to enter the gym at one time.

  • Step #6: Ensure that members book in ahead of time

In order to make sure that all of your members don’t turn up to the gym at the same time (as this would be a nightmare for trying to maintain social distancing guidelines) make sure that members book into both classes and their regular gym sessions, ahead of time.

You can use software like the Virtuagym app to create a secondary class booking schedule that refers to gym slots and can be created separately from your class timetable. So, for example, if you are only able to have 30 members in the gym at a time, you can limit the schedule capacity to 30 people for a two hour time slot. These people will also be counted at check-in and that way, only those people that have booked in may enter the gym.

Follow the above advice and we’re confident that you’ll be ready to tackle social distancing inside your gym. Social distancing guidelines are easy to follow when you’re well prepared and backed up with the right tools and software.

If you want to learn more about how to combine your facility experience with a virtual one, read more about Virtuagym’s new PRO+ feature, here.

Parisa Hashempour

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